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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE 

AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION 

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 

(Trifolium alexandrinum) 

A PRELIMINARY REPORT 
P. B. KENNEDY AND W. W. MACKIE 



BULLETIN 389 

June, 1925 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRINTING OFFICE 

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA 

1925 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of California, Davis Libraries 



http://www.archive.org/details/berseemoregyptia389kenn 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 

By P. B. KENNEDY and W. W. MACKIE 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

The Avriters desire to express their appreciation to Mr. L. G. Goar, 
formerly Superintendent of the Imperial Valley Experiment Station 
at Meloland, near El Centro, for his interest in conducting the field 
trials with berseem, to Mr. E. L. Garthwaite, Farm Advisor, Imperial 
County, to Mr. E. G. Noble, Superintendent of the Yuma Reclamation 
Project Experiment Farm at Bard, Imperial County, California, to 
cooperating farmers in the district and to others referred to in the text. 



INTRODUCTION* 

The purpose of this bulletin is to add to the series of publications t 
already issued by the College of Agriculture dealing with leguminous 
crops for human food, for forage and for use in maintaining the 
fertility of the soils of California. 

Berseem or Egyptian Clover, Trifolium alexandrinum L., promises 
to be a valuable leguminous crop for winter growing under irrigation 
in regions with a climate similar to that of the Imperial Valley of 
California. It is not expected that it will compete with alfalfa as the 
basic forage crop but rather as a supplementary crop for certain soils 
and conditions for which alfalfa is unsuited, or as a rapid growing 
short rotation crop in association with sorghum, cotton or truck crops. 
Berseem will grow in winter when alfalfa is dormant, so that it should 
prove valuable to the dairyman in producing a succulent feed for soil- 
ing or pasturage. As it is an annual plant of extraordinarily rapid 
growth, with succulent stems, abundant leaves and readily decom- 
posable roots, it lends itself admirably for use on high-priced lands 
that must produce a maximum seasonal production without losing 
their fertility. 

Berseem occupies an important role in the agriculture of Egypt 
where it is the foundation of the dairy and beef stock industry. With- 
out the use of berseem or some leguminous crop the high yields and 



* Eeference by number is to literature cited, page 31. 

t Other publications are: Bulletins 124, 224, 238, 270, 280, 292, 294, 309, 374, 
and Circulars 87, 93, 110, 124, 136, 189, 255, 257, of the Agricultural Experiment 
Station, Berkeley, California. 



4 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

excellent quality of cotton could not have been maintained. Fairchild 7 
gives an excellent account of berseem as it occurs in the Valley of the 
Nile where it is considered indispensable as a half-year rotation crop 
with cotton. The Nile silt, contrary to general belief, is not naturally 
a fertile soil and were it not for the foresight of the Egyptian farmer 
in utilizing leguminous crops extensively, the soil would lose its crop 
producing power (fig. 1). For centuries it has been necessary to use 
the manure, dried into cakes, as fuel, so that without the use of legumes 
the great money making crop of Egypt, cotton, could not have been 
maintained. 




(Courtesy of U.S.D.A.) 
Fig. 1. — Berseem in full flower. Bordein, Egypt. 

The fact that berseem is tolerant of moderate quantities of white 
alkali makes it an important plant in all irrigated sections where it 
can be grown. We doubt whether there is any other annual forage 
plant in the world which can be cut four or five times in a season and 
produce at each cutting as large an amount of forage. In Egypt under 
optimum conditions, four or five cuttings are obtained, averaging more 
than seven tons of green forage to the acre for each cutting (figs. 2 
and 3). The fifth crop is usually left to produce seed with a yield 
of about 360 pounds to the acre. 

Aaronsohn 1 , referring to the use of berseem in Palestine, states 
that it is sown with barley in the autumn along the coast where the 
rainfall is as low as 14 to 16 inches. It is grown without irrigation and 
gives two cuttings in the spring. In very rainy seasons it yields three 
cuttings. 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



Berseem was introduced into Italy in 1907 and is recommended for 
the more southern arid parts not subject to frost. De Cillis 6 states 
that it always gives good results when it escapes the winter frosts. 
His experiments showed that the best time of seeding in Sicily was 




i 13 



/ H 



(Courtesy of U.S.D.A.) 
Fig. 2. — Camels hauling berseem to market. Egypt. 




(Courtesy of U.S.D.A.) 
Fig. 3. — Hauling berseem hay {drees). Bordein, Egypt. 

towards the end of October. From three to six cuttings are obtained 
according to the length and severity of the midwinter resting period. 
Fertilizer experiments indicated that phosphates gave the best results, 
with potash next and nitrogen least. Gypsum had little effect on the 



b UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

yield. The average yield for the season is 400 quintals of green forage 
to the hectare (approximately 18 tons to the acre) and in addition 
264 pounds of seed to the acre. 

Sornay 21 reports the following from experiments by Trabut : 

"At the trial station of the Algerian Botanical Department, Alexandrian 
Clover (her seem) has given four crops in a year. When sown at the end of 
July the yield per hectare by the middle of September was 28,000 kilos, in the 
middle of November, 20,000, shortly after the middle of February, 30,000, and 
at the end of May, 25,000." (A total of about 45 tons of green forage per 
acre.) 

In Australia 4 it has been called the "Winter Lucerne" because it 
amply fills in the period when alfalfa is dormant. It succeeds well 
in those parts of the commonwealth having fairly' mild winters and 
in the colder sections provided it is sown early enough to get well 
established and make a good growth before the winter sets in. It has 
given especially good results in the northern irrigated areas of 
Victoria. Results of nine years' experiments at Eoseworthy Agri- 
cultural College show that the average total yield to the acre was over 
29 tons of green forage. Six cuttings are regarded as not exceptional 
and one farmer reports nine cuttings from heavily manured land. 
This was on a poultry farm where it was used as green feed at a period 
of the year when eggs were at a premium. He attributes his success 
with berseem to the heavy dressings of chicken manure that were 
readily available. 

Mixtures of berseem with barley, oats or rye grass have also been 
found useful. 

All experimenters and growers agree that the secret of success 
with this crop is to have the seed in early. It is recommended for 
grazing, soiling, hay, as a green manure and as an excellent plant for 
cleaning land and smothering weeds. 

Berseem has been known to experimenters in California from the 
results of small trial plots for a long time. The first record we have is 
in 1896. It is only recently, however, that it has given promise as a 
field crop. This bulletin is to be regarded as a report of the results of 
experiments with berseem in California from which the reader must 
determine whether or not the crop is suitable to his conditions. Much 
field work remains to be done before definite recommendations can be 
made in regard to its place in a rotation with our established com- 
mercial crops. 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



OEIGIN 



Berseem, like a number of our cultivated plants, such as the horse bean 
(Yicia fdba), maize {Zea mays), is a plant the original wild forms of which 
seem to have become extinct. DeCandolle 5 makes the following statement in 
regard to the origin of Tri folium alexandrinum L. 

' ' This species is extensively cultivated in Egypt as fodder. Its Arab name is 
bersym or berzun. There is nothing to show that it has been long in use, the 
name does not occur in Hebrew and Armenian botanical works. The species is 
not wild in Egypt, but it is certainly wild in Syria and Asia Minor." 
He refers to Boissiers as authority for the last statement. Here we find a 
number of localities cited from fields or in the vicinity of towns so that it is 
doubtful if these plants could be regarded as being indigenous. Muschleris 
states that it is only known from Egypt and Cyrenaica that the true home is 
uncertain and adds that it is cultivated everywhere in Egypt where it is also 
subspontaneous. 

Aaronsohn 1 is responsible for the statement that berseem grows wild in 
Palestine, but does not indicate whether he means indigenous or escaped from 
cultivation. Fairchild 7 who gives an excellent account of berseem in all its 
phases gives Schweinfurth as authority for the statement "that no picture, 
bas relief, name or authentic seeds of berseem had ever been discovered in any 
of the tombs of Egypt." He states that "the plant has nowhere been dis- 
covered wild, but a Byzantine variety {Tri folium alexandrinum var. plileoides 
Boiss.) exists at Kilsali, near Smyrna, and it is probable that the plant was 
introduced into Egypt about the sixth century." On page _ 13 in a footnote 
we find the following: "Boissier gives Trifolium alexandrinum var. phleoides 
Boiss. as a variety occurring in Kilsali near Smyrna, but says nothing as to 
whether it is in cultivation or not." We find in Boissier "Flora Orientalis" 
2-127, under habitat of this variety, "in cultis insulae Kilsali sinus Smyrnei" 
which we take to mean under cultivation. The researches of Gilbelli and 
Belli 9 regard this as a subspecies of T. echinatum so that it is unlikely that this 
variety could be regarded as the progenitor of our cultivated berseem. 

From our knowledge of how localized certain species of American clovers 
are, we can readily understand how the indigenous form of the cultivated 
berseem may have become extinct especially in a region so intensively culti- 
vated as that bordering the Mediterranean. It seems reasonable to believe 
that if berseem were in common cultivation by the ancient Egyptians that it 
would have been represented in some of their tombs or monuments. 

General Description of the Plant 

Berseem, Trifolium alexandrinum L. is one of the true clovers 
belonging to the genus Trifolium which comprises about 300 species 
distributed throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of 
both the Old and the New World, a few being represented in tropical 
Africa. Taking into consideration the large number of species in the 
genus and its economic importance it is surprising that only a com- 
paratively small number, about twelve, have been introduced into 
cultivation. The most commonly known species in cultivation are red 
clover, Trifolium pratense; Alsike Clover, T. hybridum; white Dutch 
clover, T. repens; and crimson clover, T. incarnatum. 

Trifolium alexandrinum L., Berseem or Egyptian Clover, is an 
annual plant somewhat resembling red clover in its habit of growth, 
but with yellowish-white instead of red flowering heads. The stems 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 




Fig. 4. — Berseem nodules. Shawver Kanch, Holtville, 
Imperial Valley, California. 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 






% 



A 



f&* 



&*. 



*~*\ 



i*<4. 



H^ 






t 



% 



j 







4 





















■ 

f 

,4 



(Natural Size) 

Fig. 5. — Berseem nodules. Shawver Eanch, Holtville, 
Imperial Valley, California. 



10 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

are hollow and very succulent. The roots (see fig. 4) do not extend 
far into the soil like those of alfalfa, but remain generally in the first 
two feet. When first grown in a new region nodules are not always 
found on the roots, but after one or more years they become exceedingly 
abundant (see fig. 5). The plant makes a dense, rank growth of from 
two to three feet, the number of stems increasing from the lower axils 
after each cutting. Frequent cutting of the crop prevents the growth 
of winter weeds. 

The leaves are large, numerous, slightly hairy, tender and suc- 
culent, so that it is extremely palatable to stock. This succulent feature 
makes it necessary to exercise care when making it into hay in order 
to avoid discoloration and spoiling. Each leaf consists of three ellip- 
tical leaflets arranged in the trifoliate manner common to most clovers. 
These vary from one-half an inch to two inches in length, according to 
the amount of moisture or other conditions available for the growth of 
the plant. 

Numerous yellowish-white flowers form an elliptical dense head 
which may vary in length from one-half an inch to one and one-half 
inches (see fig. 6). Each floret in the head consists of a five-lobed 
calyx and a corolla consisting of a standard, two wings, and the keel ; 
the typical flower of most members of the legume family. At maturity 
each floret may form a box capsule containing a single seed. The seed 
is a little smaller than that of red clover and about the same size and 
shape as that of crimson clover. It is egg-shaped, reddish brown, and 
about one-twelfth of an inch long (2 mm.) (see fig. 7). 

KELATIONSHIP 

Gibelli and Belli 9 place Trifolium alexandrinum L. in the section Lagopus 
Koch and the group Maritima Nob. In this section are to be found: Our well 
known cultivated clovers, Trifolium pratense L. and T. incarnatum L.; the 
rabbit 's-foot clover, T. arvense, is abundantly introduced and widely distributed 
as a weed in the eastern United States; Hungarian Clover, T. pannonicum 
Jacq., a deep-rooted long-lived perennial cultivated in Europe, known for a 
long time in the United States through experimental plantings, has never 
attained commercial status. Twelve species (12) indigenous to California 
belong to this section. A number of these are sufficiently abundant in many 
of the coast and interior valley pastures to be considered as an important source 
of feed. They are all annuals, the more important being T. dichotomum 
H. and A., T. neolaqopus Loja, T. albopurpureum T. and G., T. Macraei H. and A. 
Another species, T. amoenum Greene, very limited and local in its distribution 
is the largest and handsomest of the indigenous species of this group. It has 
distinct promise as an ornamental and is possibly also worthy of introduction 
as supplementary forage on the ranges. Mediterranean species closely related 
to T. alexandrinum L. in the group Maritima Nob. are T. maritinum Huds., 
T. echinatum M. B., T. dipsaceum Thuill., and T. olscurum Savi. 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



11 



BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION 
Trifolium alexandrinum L. 

Plant annual, 1 to 3 feet, roots of medium size, long tapering, branched, 
fibrous, single or in clusters. Stems decumbent, ascending, sometimes with 
prominent transverse rings, diffuse, fistulous, glabrous at base, increasingly- 
pilose above: leaves trifoliate, petiolate, petioles of the lowermost leaves very- 
long, becoming gradually shorter above, pubescent; pseudo-opposite above: 
lower stipules oblong-ovate, upper oblong-lanceolate, ventricose, membranous- 
scarious, sheathed, terminating in linear-lanceolate ciliate-margined lobes: 




(Prom Bull. 23, Bur. PI. Ind., U.S.D.A.) 
Fig. 6. — Berseem at time of blossoming. 



12 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 




Fig. 7. — Berseem natural size (above) and X 7 (below). 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 13 

leaflets oblong-lanceolate to oblong- elliptical, pubescent on both sides, truncate, 
rounded, emarginate mucronulate at the apex, margins denticulate on the upper 
half: inflorescence of dense heads terminating the stems and branches: peduncles 
short in anthesis, elongating in fruit, pubescent: heads pseudo-terminal, at first 
ovate-conical, later elliptical-conical: florets numerous, calyx-tube 3 mm. long, 
obconical, prominently 10-nerved, pilose, with a distinct ring of hairs but no 
callus at the throat, calyx-teeth five, triangular-subulate, about 3 mm. long, 
ciliate, the two superior slightly connate and almost equal to the lateral, the 
inferior tooth slightly exceeding the others: corolla ochroleucous, at least twice 
the length of the calyx, vexillum infundibuliform, with spreading limb, wings 
oblong semi-obovate, with numerous slender veins, auriculate at base, Tceel 
convex obtuse at apex, slightly lobed at base, longer than the inferior tooth: 
anthers ovate-apiculate: ovary sessile, obconical, one ovuled, style very long, 
slightly enlarged toward the middle, stigma cristate, fruit formed by the 
enlarged calyx at maturity, with the nerves of campanulate tube prominent, 
the throat entirely closed by the operculum of the membranous legume. Legume 
one-seeded, rarely two-seeded, the upper third consisting of an operculum firmer 
in texture than the lower two-thirds which is very thin and fragile: seeds sub- 
orbicular to ob-ovoid, 2 mm. long, seed coat at first dull, becoming shiny on 
exposure, glabrous, yellow, tinged with brown in the region of the hilum and 
chalaza, position of the radicle evident by a slight elevation of the seed coat, 
hilum orbicular, funiculus at lower third of legume. 

T. alexandrinum var. tuberculatum Nob. 

This variety has been regarded by Boissier as a variety of T. supinum Savi 
(T. echinatum M. B.) but Gibelli and Belli state that they have examined the 
specimen of T. supinum var. tuberculatum Boiss. in the Boissier herbarium and 
find that the structure of the calyx does not agree at all with that species and 
that it certainly belongs to T. alexandrinum, differing from it only by having the 
hairs of the calyx with large tubercles at the base and the throat of the calyx 
tube a little more enlarged. 

T. alexandrinum var. phleoides Boiss. 

Gibelli and Belli were able to study specimens of this variety in the Boissier 
herbarium. They conclude that it does not belong to T. alexandrinum but regard 
it as a subspecies of T. echinatum. They base their conclusion on differences in 
the head, lobes of the stipules, length of the calyx-tube and teeth, and the 
flowers coming off readily from the axis, but particularly in the large callus at 
the throat of the tube, leaving a very narrow fissure which does not occur in 
T. alexandrinum. 



Varieties* 

There are four distinct agricultural varieties of berseem grown in 
various localities and differing in rapidity of growth, number of 
cuttings per season, height of plant and amount and method of 
irrigation required. They are Miskawi, Khadrawi, Saidi and Fahl 
(see fig. 8). 

Miskawi (Muscowi U.S.D.A.) is the variety most commonly grown 
in Egypt and forms the basis for the field experiments recorded in this 
bulletin. It is preferred in the delta region of lower Egypt where there 
is an abundance of water for winter irrigation but none in summer. 
It is a rank grower sometimes attaining a height of five feet. From 



* The writers are indebted to Mr. Y. Milad, a graduate student from Egypt 
for the exact English translation of the names of these varieties from the 
Arabic. 



14 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 



4 to 8 cuttings are made according to the amount of water used and 
the height of the crop when cut. It must be irrigated twice after each 
cutting. In Egypt the time of seeding is from the first of September 
to the middle of January. It does not do well with intense heat so that 
late sowings result in lessening the number of cuttings that may be 
made owing to injury from summer weather. When planted early 
and with a favorable season, the first cutting may be made in fifty 
days, if less favorable it may take seventy days. Normally the fifth 
cutting is for the production of seed. The average yield of seed in 
Egypt is 360 pounds to the acre. 




Fig. 8. — Comparative trials of berseem varieties at Imperial Valley 
Experiment Station. 

1. Saidi — low spreading growth, in blossom. 

2. Fahl — erect growth in blossom. 

3. Misgawi — heavy succulent growth, not in blossom. 



Khadrawi (Kadrawi U.S.D.A.) resembles Misgawi in habit of 
growth but requires more water. It is said to have a longer vegetative 
period and heavier yield. We have not as yet grown it in California. 

Saidi (Saida U.S.D.A.) is characterized by having a long root 
system which enables it to withstand drought. It is somewhat inter- 
mediate in growth between Misgawi and Fahl. J. A. Prescott of the 
Societe Sultanienne D 'Agriculture of Cairo writes in a letter dated 
December 17, 1922, that this variety is the berseem of upper Egypt, 
grown on the basin lands and sown in the mud after the Nile flood. 
It gives several cuttings (two to three) without further irrigation, 
and makes an excellent quality of hay. As it has a tendency to grow 
decumbent rather than erect, the custom of sowing it with the variety 
Fahl to hold it up has become established. 

Fahl (Fachl U.S.D.A.) is used where water is not available after 
sowing and where the land is to be used immediately after cutting the 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 15 

crop. The land is overflowed by the Nile during the autumn months 
and when the water subsides a layer of mud is deposited. The seed is 
sown in the mud. No further irrigation is given and only one cutting 
of 9 tons of green fodder is obtained. 

We have obtained small quantities of the seed of these varieties 
from Egypt and have grown them in rod rows adjacent to one another 
for comparative trials. Although marked differences have been noticed 
in the character of growth, the main object at this time has been to 
obtain sufficient seed for plot trials. Excellent seed has been produced 
from the rod rows at the Imperial Valley Station so that we will soon 
be in a position to determine in what manner any of the varieties other 
than the Misgawi may be utilized. 

Another. variety which has just been brought to our attention by 
Professor Amram Khazanoff of the Palestine Jewish Colonization 
Association at Haifa, Palestine, is called Baali, or dry-land berseem. 
It is said to do better without irrigation than the Misgawi. 

CLIMATE OF THE IMPEEIAL VALLEY 

The climate most suitable to the growing of berseem may be determined in 
general by a consideration of the climate of Egypt where berseem reaches its 
greatest perfection. 

Official climatic records from the United States Department of Agriculture 
Weather Bureau for the Imperial Valley and from the Egyptian Ministry of 
Agriculture for Helwan near Cairo, are given in Table 1. 

Earn is not a factor in crop production in either Egypt or Imperial Valley 
for less than 2% inches fall annually in the Imperial and only one-third of this 
quantity at Cairo, Egypt, but over 8 inches at Alexandria on the Mediterranean. 
The relative humidity at Cairo is considerably greater than in the Imperial 
Valley on account, no doubt, of the proximity to the Mediterranean. 

Temperature appears to be the limiting factor in the production of berseem 
and before successful experiments were conducted in the Imperial Valley, 
authorities believed the climate to be too cold for successful berseem culture. 
The growing season for berseem extends from September to May, inclusive. 
The Imperial Valley is warmer than Egypt during September and again during 
March, April and May, but during the months of October to February, inclusive, 
the climate of Egypt is warmer. The Mediterranean moderates the extremes 
of temperature and humidity for Egypt much more than the Gulf of California 
does for the Imperial Valley. 

As light frosts commonly occur during the winter in both places ( 23 p. 24), 
they are not considered a factor in berseem production. A lowering of the tem- 
perature which causes a severe freeze is considered to seriously affect berseem. 
The absolute minimum for the Imperial Valley at the critical period in mid- 
winter falls far below that of Egypt. The first crop of berseem grown at the 
Imperial Valley Experiment Station (1921-22) experienced an unusually cold 
winter when the thermometer reached 17 degrees F. All berseem plants 
were frozen to the ground (January 20, 1922) but all except those growing 
upon the ridges revived and by March 5 were 24 to 30 inches in height. Two 
crops of hay and a heavy crop of seed followed. 

In late December, 1924, the thermometer registered 16 degrees F. but none 
of the berseem plants were killed although all were cut back to the ground by 



16 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 



TABLE 1 

Normal Monthly, Seasonal and Annual Temperature and Precipitation at 
Brawley, Imperial Valley, California, and Cairo, Egypt 
(Kecords taken at Helwan Weather Observatory near Cairo) 





Brawley, California 

(Field Operations, Bureau of Soils, 1920. 

Brawley Area, Calif., p. 647) 


Helwan, Egypt (near Cairo), 
1914 




Temperature 
°F. 


Precipitation, 
inches 


>> 
1 

> 


Temperat 
°F. 


ure 


3 

>> 

<D 

M 

o3 

O > 

"3.S 

£2 




Month 


a 


a 

a 

O 3 

< 


'S 

s 

.SS 

< 


8 

3 


u 
o u 

a >> 

II 

3.3 






i 

a 

Is 

•.ss 
<1 


i 

"a 
1 

Is 

< 


>> 

'•3 
1 

^ .a 

> 6 

■1 8 




52. 

52.8 

55.8 


85 
85 
85 


20 
21 
28 


0.40 
0.56 
0.34 


0.10 
.00 
.00 


Tr. 

0.90 
2.02 


30 
44 
42 


57 
56 
57 


68 
84 
89 


42 
39 
40 


.36 
Tr. 
.11 


71 1 




66 4 




60.4 






Winter 


53.5 


85 


20 


1.30 


.10 


2.92 


39 


57 


85 


39 


.47 


65.9 




62.2 
69.1 
73.4 


96 
106 
118 


29 
38 
41 


.29 
.04 
.06 


.75 
Tr. 
.45 


.00 
.00 
.15 


47 
55 
37 


60 
70 
66 


102 
100 
101 


49 
55 
58 


Tr. 
.24 
Tr. 


58.0 




52.0 




50.1 








68.2 


118 


29 


.39 


1.20 


.15 


45 


65 


102 


%9 


.24 


53.3 








84.2 
89.6 
89.2 


118 
115 
115 


51 
57 
60 


.02 
.11 

.27 


.25 
Tr. 
Tr. 


.00 
.00 
.28 


35 
33 
38 


78 
81 
80 


109 
103 
100 


65 
66 
64 







50.9 


July 


51 8 




57.5 








87.7 


118 


51 


.40 


.25 


.28 


35 


80 


109 


64 





53.4 








83.0 
71.2 
60.8 


111 

107 
93 


51 
40 
26 


.14 
.09 
.15 


.00 
Tr. 
Tr. 


.70 
.12 
.00 


37 
34 
43 


79 
74 
64 


100 
80 
79 


58 
49 
41 






.10 


65. 


October 


68.5 




69.5 






Fall 


71.7 


111 


26 


.38 


Tr. 


.82 


38 


72 


100 


41 


.10 


67.7 






Yeab 


70.3 


118 


20 


2.47 


1.55 


4.17 




68 


109 


39 


.84 









the freeze. The Misgawi variety appeared to be the most resistant to cold 
damage. In June a good crop of excellent seed matured. 

Ordinarily such severe cold is not experienced in the Imperial Valley the 
mercury seldom falling below 26 degrees or 27 degrees F. The ability of 
berseem to survive under these extreme conditions indicates that the climatic 
conditions in the Imperial Valley are not an obstacle to its successful culture. 
Such severe cold as that experienced in 1921-22 may, however, retard the 
berseem sufficiently to lose one cutting. That berseem will withstand more cold 
than Egyptian experience indicates, is shown by the records of Dr. Trabut 
Fairchild 7 (p. 13) at Eouiba, Algiers, when 23 degrees F was found to cause 
no damage. In southern Italy and Sicily, berseem must withstand even lower 
temperatures than in Algiers. 

Early sown berseem resists frost much better than late sown. 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



17 



SOILS OF THE IMPEEIAL VALLEY 

The soils of the Imperial Valley are described in detail by Strahorn et al 22 
and Kocher et al 13 in the Soil Survey Eeports of the United States Department 
of Agriculture. In these reports thirty distinct soil types are described and 
mapped. The changes in soil texture are frequent and large bodies of soil 
uniform in surface and subsoil, are not usual. The soils may be grouped into 
hard, medium and soft. This classification closely corresponds to the value and 
crop producing capacity of the soils. The soils of the valley are modified con- 
siderably by the occurrence of stratified layers of sand or sandy soil in the 
subsoils. To the west of the Imperial Valley lie areas of sand which is blown 
into the valley at all times, forming dunes in places. As the prevailing winds 
blow from this direction, additions of sand are being constantly made. From 
the Colorado Eiver to the south, overflows in the past have carried deposits of 
silt and clay. These sediments have been deposited over the sand causing much 
stratification in the subsoils. The sandy layers contribute to rise of the water 
table and cause surface accumulations of alkali. Silt is deposited in greatest 
quantities nearest the river, but the clay is carried farther away from the river 
into quieter waters and covers the northern part of the valley. The soils of 
the southern end are, therefore, more silty and softer than those of the northern 
end where clay largely replaces silt in the river deposits. 

Experiments in the Imperial Valley with berseem indicate that tight heavy 
soils are not well adapted to this crop, but the softer loamy and silty soils 
produce good crops. At Bard in Imperial County, loose river sand deposits 
yielded poorly. A comparison of the texture of the soils found producing good 
berseem in Egypt and in the Imperial Valley is given in Table 2. 



TABLE 2 
Texture of Soils Producing Berseem in Egypt and in the Imperial Valley 



No. 


Locality 


Description 


o 


a 

a 

Is 

o 


^a 
S3 

5 


2$ 
o>o 


a* 
a 

-do 

10 US 

.So 


> 


oS 
Oia 
i2o' 


SB 

sa 

o^ 

°§ 

JSo 

o 


la 

"d 55 
gpq 


17539 


Abukir Tract 


Loam 0-12 in 


50 


02 


,08 


16 


23.24 


42 68 


21 00 


12 52 


good 


7544 




Clay loam 0-12 


89 


14 


.30 


18 


2 32 


4.14 


35 08 


57.44 


good 


7545 


Abukir Tract 


Clay loam 12-24 


.69 


.00 


.10 .06 


3.86 


15.90 


30.72 


49.30 


7546 


Abukir Tract 


Clay loam 24-30 


1.04 


.00 


.04 


.04 


.92 


5.76 


51.28 


41.64 




7555 


Kom-el-akhder . . 


Clay loam 0-12 


.45 


1.84 


5.80 


4.20 


21.94 


15.84 


7.48 


42.10 


good 


2575018 


Imperial Valley. 


Imperial silty clay 
loam (medium). 




0.10 


0.10 


0.00 


1.10 


13.30 


56.80 


28.60 


fair 
growth 


575019 


Imperial Valley. 


Imperial silty clay 
loam (subsoil). 




0.00 


0.10 


0.10 


.70 


24.90 


47.70 


26.60 




575014 


Imperial Valley. 


Imperial silty clay 
(hard soil). 




0.10 


0.30 


0.50 


4.30 


14. CO 


44.10 


36.40 


poor 


575015 


Imperial Valley. 


Imperial silty clay 
(subsoil). 




0.10 


0.70 


0.10 


6.80 


5.70 


50.90 


34.70 




575043 


Imperial Valley. 


Meloland fine sandy 
loam (soft soil). 




0.00 


0.20 


0.40 


46.50 


30.70 


12.20 


9.80 


excellent 


575044 


Imperial Valley. 


Meloland fine sandy 
loam (subsoil). 




0.00 


0.00 


0.10 


17.30 


26.90 


35.00 


20.60 





Means [(15), p. 22.] 



2 Strahorn [(22), pp. 27, 29, 42.] 



Owing to the greater quantity of organic matter and the appearance of deep 
cracks in the Egyptian soils, good crops of berseem are produced on soil con- 
taining a larger percentage of clay than in soils of the Imperial Valley. In 
the Imperial Valley those soils containing large quantities of very fine sand or 
silt produce the best crops of berseem. The Imperial Valley soils which produce 
good crops of alfalfa, are best adapted to berseem. 



18 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 



Alkali Tolerance of Berseem 

Foaden 8 (p. 49) states that berseem is largely used in the reclama- 
tion of ' ' salty ' ' lands in Egypt and that there can be no doubt that it 
will grow in soils so "salty" that the majority of ordinary crops would 
fail. Kearney and Means 11 (p. 581) state that rice is first used when 
flood waters are applied to alkali land to wash out excess salts. Dineba 
or barnyard grass (Panicum crus-galli) a weed pest in California rice 
fields, is also used for the summer crop in alkali reclamation. These 
summer crops are followed by berseem as a winter crop, September to 
November. Dineba grass was entirely killed off when the alkali content 
varied from 0.7 to 1.4 per cent, but withstood 0.6 per cent without 
indications of injury. This is about the same as for alfalfa in the 
Imperial Valley. Berseem following rice or dineba as a winter crop 
was found to thrive in alkali up to 0.6 per cent. Kearney and Means 11 
(p. 581) believe berseem to be more alkali resistant than dineba. 
Alkali, however, is much less injurious to plants in winter or cool 
weather. If the land is sufficiently free from alkali to permit a good 
growth of rice or dineba it is fit for berseem. Berseem is usually 
followed by a crop of cotton sown in the spring. If the more deeply 
rooted cotton shows alkali injury, this process of flooding and cropping 
is repeated. The composition of the alkali where berseem is grown in 
Egypt is quite similar to the alkali common to the Imperial Valley, as 
is shown in Table 3. 

TABLE 3 
Composition of Alkali in Lower Egypt 15 and in Imperial Valley California^ 



Recombined Ions 


Imperial Valley 
Sec. 35T. HSR. 14E 


Lower Egypt 
Kom-el-akhder 




Per cent 
11.06 
13.58 

3.93 
53.78 

4.89 
12.76 


Per cent 
10.43 




9.90 




3.62 




60.88 




1.41 




13.76 




Its 








2.70 


8.20 









According to these analyses a remarkable similarity is at once 
apparent. In both Egypt and Imperial Valley large quantities of 
gypsum (calcium sulphate) render the occcurrence of black alkali 
(sodium carbonate) unlikely, except under unusual conditions. Con- 
siderably more than half the alkali in each analysis consists of common 
salt (sodium chloride) which is readily leached out. 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 19 



Kesults of Experiments with Berseem in California 

Early Experiments. — The first record we can find of the growing 
of berseem in California is in 1896 when some seed was received from 
the United States Department of Agriculture by the Agricultural 
Experiment Station at Berkeley. The note states that it was not a 
success at Berkeley and that it was being sent to the substations at 
Tulare and Pomona in the hope of getting better results. No accession 
numbers appear with these records. Seed and Plant Introduction 
numbers of the U.S.D.A. 4254, 4255 and 4256 show that three varieties 
of berseem were received through Messrs. Lathrop and Fairchild from 
Cairo, December 28, 1899. These were forwarded to the Experiment 
Station at Berkeley and sown at the Southern Coast Range Substation 
near Paso Robles, December 21, 1900. The results were unfavorable 
because of spring frosts and cold. S.P.I. No. 7031 was received from 
the U.S.D.A. about October 23, 1901. It was the variety "Muscowi" 
and the shipment consisted of two and one-half bushels of seed. S.P.I. 
No. 7657 "Saida"; No. 7658 " Faehl' ' and No. 7659 "Muscowi" were 
received from the U.S.D.A. on November 25, 1901. This shipment 
enabled the Experiment Station to distribute lots of from 1 to 50 
pounds each for trial at the substations, as well as to numerous indi- 
vidual cooperators. In addition a considerable number of lots were 
sent directly from Washington, D. C. to farmers. In the autumn of 
1904 S.P.I. Nos. 9874 " Muscowi," 9875 "Faehl" and 9876 "Saida" 
were received from the U.S.D.A. and were distributed as follows on 
September 8, 1904: Twenty pounds of each to Bernard G. Johnson, 
U.S.D.A. date garden, at Mecca; ten pounds of "Muscowi" and five 
pounds of "Saida" and "Faehl" to J. W. Mills to be grown on the 
"Home Tract" of the Southern California substation in Chino Valley. 
These experiments were conducted under the direction of the late 
Professor A. V. Stubenrauch in connection with green manure studies. 
The report from Johnson shows that the variety "Muscowi" was the 
most vigorous grower, producing two cuttings 18 inches high before 
being plowed under on March 5. The crop was not considered promis- 
ing mainly on account of the ground becoming white with alkali and 
the lack of water to keep it down. Mills reports that he planted the 
seed September 22, 1904 and obtained a good stand. It grew 12 inches 
in height by March 15, when it was plowed under. No difference is 
mentioned between the varieties, except that ' ' Muscowi ' ' was 4 inches 
taller. 



20 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

Twenty pounds of S.P.I. 10373 "Muscowi" was received from the 
U.S.D.A. 1905 and distributed to five experimenters. No report is in 
the files as to their success or failure. 

The published and unpublished reports were generally not favor- 
able but many factors contributed to the poor results. Scarcity of 
water for irrigation, too late sowing, too cold winters, weeds, alkali, 
severe frosts, lack of inoculation, and a general lack of knowledge of 
the cultural requirements of the plant. 

With the abandonment of the substations the earlier experiments 
with berseem were discontinued. The names prominently associated 
with these preliminary trials are A. V. Stubenrauch, J. B. Davy, C. H. 
Shinn, B. Kellner, J. W. Mills and B. G. Johnson. 

More Recent Experiments. — The trials with berseem were con- 
tinued at the Government Trial Grounds of the United States Depart- 
ment of Agriculture at Chico with generally poor results until 1916. 
In subsequent years a marked improvement in its growth was observed. 
No satisfactory explanation can be given for this except the accumula- 
tion of suitable inoculation material in the soil. 

The first successful planting of berseem in California was in the 
autumn of 1918 when seed inoculated with soil from Chico was sown 
in rod rows by H. L. Westover at the Experiment Station at Bard in 
the Imperial Valley on land controlled by the Office of Western Irriga- 
tion Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, U.S.D.A., Washington, 
D. C. A heavy growth was obtained and seed saved by H. R. Reed 
which resulted in a half-acre trial in 1919. The crop continued to 
improve in subsequent years, as inoculation increased. 

In September, 1921, inoculated seed was sent from Bard to L. G. 
Goar, Superintendent, University of California Branch Experiment 
Station at El Centro in accordance with arrangements made by 
R. McKee with P. B. Kennedy. Good results were obtained from this 
planting. A small commercial planting was arranged for near Bard 
by E. S. Noble, Superintendent at Bard, and a good crop of seed pro- 
duced in 1922. The experiments are now being conducted by the 
writers in cooperation with the Experiment Station at Bard and the 
County Agent of Imperial Valley, E. L. Garthwaite. 

Cultural Methods 

In the preparation of the soil for berseem, the land should be 
leveled and the seed bed smoothed and fined as for alfalfa. The border 
or strip method of irrigation is preferred. The light textured soils 
present no difficulties when the soil is irrigated to sprout the seed, but 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 21 

on the heavy soils not so well adapted to berseem, the stand and subse- 
quent growth is much improved by corrugating the surface in the 
direction of the flowing water. In this manner the whole of the soil is 
sub-irrigated or saturated by capillarity, avoiding the detrimental 
effects of flooding. As these corrugations are only 4 or 5 inches high, 
they offer no obstacle to the mower. 

Seeding. — In Egypt 60 to 80 pounds of seed to the acre is sown 
broadcast, usually in the mud. The berseem sown on medium soil at 
the Imperial Valley Experiment Station and on farms on softer soils 
in the region, produced excellent stands from drilling 12 pounds to the 
acre. On heavy or poorly conditioned soils, as much as 20 pounds to 
the acre should be sown. Larger quantities of seed produce too thick 
a stand which prevents tillering and spreading of the root crowns. In 
the softer soils, the minimum quantity of 12 pounds to the acre is 
preferred. The Imperial Valley seed gave a much higher germination 
than the Egyptian seed. Weevil attacks, usually lower the viability of 
the Egyptian seed from 10 to 20 per cent. At present no weevils are 
found attacking the California grown seed. ' ' Blasting, ' ' or shriveling 
of the endosperm and germ w T hich is common in Egyptian seed causes 
little damage in Imperial Valley. 

Berseem may be seeded in August but October is the preferred time 
in Egypt because early sown berseem is usually destroyed by cater- 
pillars. In the Imperial Valley, experiments proved that late Septem- 
ber or early October were preferable times of seeding. Early sown 
berseem becomes well established before cool weather sets in. A crop 
may be matured from early sown berseem in 50 days from seeding 
while late sown, November to December, may require 70 to 90 days 
to produce the first crop. The frosts of midwinter are not so severe 
on early sown well grown plants, but young plants in late seeding may 
be killed by the heaviest frosts. When a crop of seed only is desired, 
spring seeding in February may be practiced. 

Irrigation. — Water is applied to the berseem sown in dry ground 
and the berseem "irrigated up." If the water carries its heaviest load 
of silt as it sometimes does when the Gila River is in flood, serious 
smothering of very young berseem seedlings may result. Berseem 
requires almost the same quantity of water as alfalfa applied in the 
same manner and at the same intervals of time. Too frequent irriga- 
tions were found to retard the development of roots and stems. The 
production of plots similarly prepared and seeded was the same in all 
respects, whether irrigated 7, 14, 21 or 28 days apart until March 15, 
after which two irrigations per crop period of 30 days were given. 
Softer soils require fewer irrigations. 



22 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

Harvesting and Yields. — The best growth with berseem is secured 
by mowing the first crop when the plants are about 9 inches high. This 
early clipping causes new shoots to start quickly. For early sown 
berseem this cutting should, be made about the first of January. About 
40 or 50 days later the second crop may be cut. If no seed is to be 
produced three more crops may be harvested by June 1st when the 
hot weather usually terminates its growing period. When seed is 
desired, the fourth or last crop is allowed to mature. It should be 
ready to cut after the first week in June. 




Fig. 9A. — Second crop of berseem from seed sown October 5, 1923, on hard 
soil. Imperial Valley Experiment Station, February 19, 1924. 

When berseem is grown on soft soil under favorable conditions, it 
should be cut every 30 days after about the first of February at which 
time it should be about 24 inches in height. Before the crop is cut the 
following crop is already sending up shoots. 

Berseem contains more water than alfalfa, dries more slowly and 
matures at the season when the conditions for quick curing of hay are 
unfavorable. The best results in Egypt and Imperial are obtained 
when the berseem is hauled from the field as soon as cut, and fed green 
to dairy stock. 

Berseem hay is very brittle when cured and is not so attractive in 
appearance as alfalfa hay. It has not been satisfactory for sale in 
the market because of its tendency to break and pulverize when baled. 
It is however a very excellent feed and preferred by all kinds of 
stock to alfalfa. 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



23 



On the heavy infertile soil of the Imperial Valley Experiment 
Station, berseem yielded 10 to 12 tons of green fodder to the acre in 
addition to a crop of seed. Soft soil near El Centro produced in four 
crops of berseem 23 1 /2 tons of green feed to the acre by April 16, after 
which a seed crop of 792 pounds to the acre was harvested (see fig. 10). 

In Egypt where berseem has long been grown and its culture 
thoroughly understood, yields as high as 42 tons to the acre are 
reported, Fairchild. 7 It seems reasonable to assume that as berseem 
becomes better known and the methods of handling the soil and crop 





m crop on soft soil (half grown). Hoppin Banch, near 
El Centro, Imperial Valley, California. 



improve, that yields approaching that of Egypt will be obtained in the 
Imperial Valley. 

Seed Production. — Seed sets abundantly and is of good quality. 
Unlike alfalfa, the most vigorous berseem produces the best and 
heaviest crops of seed. 

The alfalfa huller or thresher is preferred, but any well regulated 
grain thresher will easily remove the seed from the soft pods. The 
straw from the threshing is itself excellent feed and practically as 
valuable as berseem hay. 

One field of soft soil in the Imperial Valley produced seed at the 
rate of 792 pounds to the acre, but less than half of this amount was 
secured from the heavy soils of the Experiment Station. 

Seed may be obtained commercially in Imperial Valley, Australia 
and Egypt. 



24 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 



Feeding Value of Berseem 

All kinds of stock and poultry relish berseem and prefer it to 
alfalfa. In fields of alfalfa and berseem mixed, cattle and horses select 
the berseem, leaving most of the alfalfa until the berseem has been 
grazed to the ground. As a soiling crop fed green to dairy cows, it 
has no equal. Near Brawley a dairyman pasturing his cows on excellent 
alfalfa, changed to berseem with the following results : 







Fig. 10. — Berseem on soft soil, 21 days after cutting. Hoppin Kanch, 
El Centro, Imperial Valley, California. 



TABLE 4 

Effect of Berseem on Production of Butter Fat with Three Cows Taken 

from Alfalfa Pasture 



Pounds butter fat 
per day- 



Alfalfa (green), average butter fat per day, Feb. 18-21 

Berseem (after feeding green 2 days), Feb. 23 

Berseem (after feeding green 6 days), Feb. 26 

Berseem (after feeding green 7 days), Feb. 27 

Berseem (after feeding green 8 days), Feb. 28 



4.29 
4.42 
4.96 
4.72 
4.80 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



25 



This increase in butter fat per cow daily due to replacing alfalfa 
with berseem was more than 10 per cent. 

Chemical Analyses of Berseem and Alfalfa. — Berseem and alfalfa 
from the Imperial Valley were analyzed and the results included in 
Table 5. 

TABLE 5 

Chemical Analysesi of Berseem (Misgawi) and Alfalfa 





Berseem 


Alfalfa 




First cutting 


Second cutting 


Fresh 
(green) 
calcu- 
lated 
(Fair- 
child, 
p. 16) 


Air 
dry 






Fresh 


Air 
dry 


Water 
free 


Green 

(fresh) 


Air 
dry 


Water 
free 


Water 
free 




% 
81.50 
1.90 

.49 
3.00 
3.71 
9.40 

.76 


% 

9.50 
9.29 
2.39 
14.67 
18.14 
46.01 
3.71 


% 


% 
81.50 
3.17 

.74 
2.80 
3.92 
7.87 

.57 


% 

8.77 
15.63 

3.65 
13 80 
19.34 
38.81 

2.83 


% 


% 
75.00 
3.47 
.32 
2.16 
9.33 
9.72 


% 

11.96 
12.21 
1.13 
7.62 
32 86 
34.22 


% 


Protein 


10.27 
2.65 
16.22 
20.05 
50.81 


17.65 
4.00 
15.15 
21.20 
42.00 


13.87 


Fat 


1.28 


Ash 


8.66 


Crude fiber 


37.32 


Carbohydrates 


38.87 


Lime (CaO) 

















1 Analyses of berseem by Harold Goss, Division of Nutrition, California Agricultural Experiment 
Station. 



Some striking differences at once become apparent and serve perhaps 
to explain the evident superiority of berseem in fattening stock and 
in milk production. Berseem is more succulent, for in the fresh 
state it contains more water and little more than half the quantity of 
crude fiber found in alfalfa. Considerable more than twice as much 
fat and appreciably more carbohydrate occur in berseem. The second 
cutting of berseem contains more protein and the first cutting less 
protein than alfalfa. The total protein content is apparently about the 
same in both forages. Berseem contains almost twice as much ash as 
alfalfa, but the proportion of lime (CaO) in the ash is approximately 
the same (20 to 25 per cent). For dairy cows which draw heavily upon 
stored lime in their bodies during the lactation period the presence of 
such large quantities of available lime is decidedly favorable. 

In Egypt cattle are tethered in long lines abreast in fields of 
berseem and in this manner regularly harvest the crop. Labor costs 
would prohibit this method in California unless the cows could be 
watered by wagon when milked. Berseem does not give the butter or 
milk any unusual flavor. 



26 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 



Bloating 

Bloating (tympanitis) from feeding berseem when covered with 
dew is very rare in Egypt (Foaden, 8 p. 48) and Australia (Brunning, 4 
p. 92) and not serious when it does occur. In the Imperial Valley no 
bloating with berseem has occurred, although it is reported for alfalfa. 

Berseem in Crop Kotations 

Berseem occupies annually more than 29 per cent (Willcocks and 
Craig, 23 p. 770) of the total tilled lands of Egypt calculating the lands 
cropped twice a year as double acreage. By using berseem as a winter 
crop in connection with rotations of summer crops of cotton, maize 
and rice over 45 per cent of the agricultural area is double cropped 
each year. The price of cotton may at times vary these proportions in 
either direction. It is the principal feed for all stock but its main use 
in Egyptian agriculture lies in its value as a rotation crop in main- 
taining crop production in rotations with cotton, maize and grain. 
Cotton in particular depends upon berseem in the rotation for both 
the quality and quantity of fiber produced. 

In Egypt, according to Prescott, 20 two general plans of rotation 
are practiced. 

Plan A — 

Berseem October to May 

Maize {Zed) July to November 

Cotton March to October 

Wheat November to May 

Berseem October to May, etc. 

This plan provides ample time after the wheat harvest in May (as 
in Imperial) to prepare for early seeding of berseem. Sufficient time 
occurs after the maize harvest to prepare the land for cotton, but less 
time is available for seeding wheat after cotton. 

Plan B — 

Cotton March to October 

Berseem November to May 

Maize July to October 

Wheat November to May 

Maize July to November 

Cotton as above 

This rotation is the more common and is used to supply nitrogen 
to the cereal crops. In addition to this, berseem is often sown in stand- 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 27 

ing cotton or maize in the fall as a catch crop to be pastured lightly 
and then plowed under early. Better yields result when cotton and 
maize stalks are removed and the land plowed and well prepared before 
the berseem is sown. This rotation furnishes the cotton with nitrogen. 
A difference from 10 to 20 bushels per acre in favor of berseem is 
noted in the maize crop when wheat or berseem precede it. Cotton 
in Egypt does not respond well to chemical fertilizers. 

Comparison with Alfalfa. — Naturally any leguminous forage plant 
coming into use as a feed for dairy and other stock will be compared 
with alfalfa. Berseem and alfalfa resemble each other in drought and 
alkali tolerance, repeated croppings from the same plants under irri- 
gation, high production of palatable and nutritious feed, both green 
and cured, and high value as green manure in crop rotations. 

Points of dissimilarity like growth period and persistence place 
them in separate fields of usefulness. Alfalfa, a perennial, requires 
from one to two seasons to become thoroughly established at maximum 
production, while berseem an annual, produces its crops mainly 
through the winter and spring of a single crop year. It can be plowed 
under at any time during the period of its growth and quickly incor- 
porated into the soil to the immediate advantage of the crops which 
follow in rotation. Alfalfa fosters insect pests of cotton and other 
crops in summer. The culture of alfalfa is forbidden by law in Egypt 
(Prescott 20 ) because it harbors the cutworm (Agrotis ypsilon) and 
draws heavily upon summer water which is scarce. Alfalfa occupies 
the land over too long a period to the exclusion of cash crops like 
cotton and truck crops, which give greater returns to the acre. Berseem 
on the contrary makes possible double cropping with crops like cotton 
and lettuce, without the three or four-year wait, when alfalfa is used 
in the rotation. 

Alfalfa in rotation with truck and cotton crops in the Imperial 
Valley occurs in the following order. Old alfalfa (three or more 
years) becomes thin, foul with weeds, and drowned out in spots or 
irrigates poorly because of deposits of silt. The alfalfa land is rented 
to a truck grower usually for three years. Cantaloupes may first 
occupy the land and be followed by fall planted lettuce or either crop 
may occupy the land for two or three years. The soil rapidly loses its 
productivity for these truck crops and the final crop may be cotton or 
grain sorghum which leaves the land in a very poor condition when 
the renter returns it to the owner at the end of his lease. The owner 
must now proceed to relevel and recheck the land. This practice 
usually loses him one year before he can again reseed it to alfalfa. 



28 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

After another three or four year period he will again be ready to 
lease for cash. The alfalfa returns are usually far less than those 
for truck or cotton crops. 

Berseem in Relation to Cotton and Sorghum. — On the softer silty 
soils, especially in that part of the Imperial Valley lying in Mexico, 
cotton is a great cash crop. Cotton land is mainly farmed by renters 
who continue to grow cotton year after year for several years. Fre- 
quently the old but living cotton stalks are cut off and a sucker crop 
grown from the old roots. The result is a steady deterioration in yield. 

We might follow the successful practice of rotation in Egypt and 
sow berseem in the standing cotton or sorghum in October with irriga- 
tion. These crops in very dry regions are not injuriously affected by 
late irrigations. The injurious after effect of sorghums will be reduced 
by the following crop of berseem. In Egypt the early sown berseem 
crop is ready for pasturing in January, and until it is ready to be 
plowed under previous to the seeding of cotton in March. If the 
berseem is to be pastured, the Misgawi variety is preferred because it 
pastures well and comes up repeatedly from the root crown. When 
the whole berseem crop is plowed under, the Fahl and Saidi varieties 
may be preferred because these varieties produce a larger first crop 
than Misgawi. Mackenzie (Foaden, 8 p. 48) has shown that consider- 
able nitrogen is added to the soil during the early growth of berseem 
but little or none by the late growth: 

Nitrogen in soil before sowing berseem 0.099 0.101 

Nitrogen in soil after the first cutting 0.110 0.116 

Nitrogen in soil after the second cutting 0.113 0.111 

Nitrogen in soil after the third cutting 0.105 

Nitrogen in soil after the fourth cutting 0.099 

After two cuttings of berseem approximately 300 pounds of nitrogen 
to the acre have been added. Sixty or seventy pounds to the acre of 
this organic nitrogen is considered sufficient for a good crop. Berseem 
roots and straw rapidly become converted into organic matter when 
cultivated into the soil. Alfalfa roots, on the contrary, persist and 
many plants renew their growth much to the annoyance of the farmer 
when truck crops are grown. 

Inoculation. — The root system of berseem is shallow but carries with 
it large quantities of nodules. At Bard and Meloland in Imperial 
County where berseem was first grown, no nodules appeared in the 
roots the first year (see fig. 11). The plants were yellowish green in 
appearance and not very thrifty. Without inoculation of any kind 
an abundance of nodules appeared in the same land the second year. 



Bull. 389] 



BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 



29 



Seed from the first crop produced at Meloland when sown in other 
parts of the valley where berseem had not previously been grown, gave 
rise to plants abundantly supplied with nodules. A dark green color 
accompanied the nodule bearing plants, contrasting favorably with the 
yellowish color of the berseem plants without nodules. It appears 
that the strain of nodule forming bacteria necessary for inoculating 
berseem is common in the Imperial Valley. 




Fig. 11. — Berseem seed crop. Bard, Imperial County, California. (No 
nodules were found in this crop, but abundant nodules appeared in the next 
year's crop.) 



Seeding Berseem in Alfalfa. — Experiments with seeding berseem 
in old alfalfa to secure a better production of pasturage in winter 
were not very successful because of the compact condition of the soil. 
Berseem must have a deep, loose, well tilled seed bed. The Misgawi 
variety is best for sowing into alfalfa because it pastures well. 

Seeding Berseem in Barley.- — deeding berseem into barley fields, 
especially where barley is to be pastured in the early stages, promises 
better success if the barley is not sown too thickly. Berseem should 
be sown early and after pasturing may be allowed to mature and 
produce seed with the barley. The barley may then be recleaned and 
the berseem seed recovered. For seeding with barley or other cereals 
the Fahl or Saidi varieties are best because they normally produce 
only one cutting. 



30 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 



Berseem and Weeds 

When berseem is sown early on soft soil ordinary weeds are con- 
trolled by its dense growth, but when grown on hard soils or when 
the stand is thin, weeds may continue. Mallow (Malva) and Lamb's- 
quarters (Chenopodium sp.) have persisted in berseem fields in the 
Imperial Valley. 

Melilotus (M. indie a) has become established in the Imperial 
Valley and is persistent in fields of berseem on heavy or hard soils. 
Mixed seed of both clover and berseem are almost impossible to 
separate. Contaminated berseem fields should not be harvested for 
seed. 

Dodder (Cuscuta). attacks berseem in Egypt, but has not as yet 
appeared on berseem in California. 

Pests 

No berseem fungous pests are known. Insect pests, however, are 
numerous and many species highly injurious to other crops are 
attracted to berseem where they multiply enormously. As these insects 
increase during the summer, irrigation of berseem in Egypt is stopped 
by law by the end of April. 

Nematodes attack truck crops in the Imperial Valley and many 
legume crops as well. For this reason many excellent green manure 
crops like mung beans, cowpeas, vetches, sesbania and pea crops are 
objectionable because nematodes are carried over in abundance to 
the succeeding truck crops. Berseem has shown nematode attack 
(Malloch 14 ) in the Imperial Valley, but like alfalfa it carries nematodes 
(Bessey 2 ) in limited numbers. 

Weevils which attack berseem severely in Egypt have not yet 
appeared in the Imperial Valley. The Chalcis fly, found attacking 
alfalfa seed in this region has not attacked berseem. 



BULL. 389] BERSEEM OR EGYPTIAN CLOVER 31 



SUMMARY 

Berseem from the results of the preliminary trials gives much 
promise for forage and green manure as a new crop for the Imperial 
Valley. It is an annual leguminous plant which may be cut several 
times in one season. Future investigations with cold-tolerant and dry- 
land varieties may extend the area in which berseem may be grown 
to other sections of the state. 

The variety Misgawi, now grown, is best adapted to regions of mild 
winters where irrigation is practiced. 

The plant is alkali tolerant to a considerable degree. 

As green fodder or as hay it has been found more palatable and 
nutritious than alfalfa. 

The stems are succulent and the roots are covered with numerous 
nitrogen-bearing nodules. This makes it an ideal plant to turn under 
as green manure. 

It may be found valuable in a rotation with such crops as sorghum, 
cotton, lettuce and cantaloupes. 

The crop is easily seeded, grown and harvested. 

It has an ameliorating effect upon the soil and increases the yields 
of other succeeding crops. 

Seed of good quality can be produced in the Imperial Valley. 



LITERATURE CITED 

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Agr., Bur. PI. Ind. Bull. 180:28. 

2Bessey, Earnest A. 

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217:1-89, pis. 1-3. 

3 BOISSIER, E. E. 

1872. Flora orientalis. 2:127. 

4 Brunning, Leslie H. 

1922. Fodder crops for Australia. 85-94. 
s DeCandolle, A. 

1886. Origin of cultivated plants, p. 107, American edition, 
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1911. Una nuova foragera per i paesi caldi. Bev. Agr. 21:45-72. 
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7 Fairchild, David G. 

1902. Berseem: The great forage and soiling crop of the Nile Valley, 
Egypt. U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. PI. Ind. Bull. 23:1-20, pis. 1-14. 



32 UNIVERSITY OP CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 

8 Foaden, George P. 

1904. Egyptian Agriculture. U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. PI. Ind. Bull. 62:1-61, 
pis. 1-6, figs. 1-12. 

9 GlBELLT, G., AND BELLI, S. 

1889. Eivista critica e descrittiva delle specie de Trifolium Italiane. 
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io Holmes, J. Garnett, et al. 

1903. Soil survey of the Imperial Area, California. (Extending survey 
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1248. 
ii Kearney, Thomas H., and Means, Thomas H. 

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Dept. Agr. Yearbook, pp. 573-588, pis. 1-4, fig. 1. 

12 Kennedy, P. B. 

1913. Studies in Trifolium— VII. Muhlenbergia. . 9:1-29, pis. 1-4. 

13 KOCHER, II. E., ET AL. 

1923. Soil survey of the Brawley Area, California. Advance sheets. 
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14 Malloch, W. S. 

1923. The problem of breeding nematode resistant plants. Phytopath- 
ology, 13:443. 
is Means, Thomas H. 

1903. Eeclamation of alkali lands in Egypt as adopted to similar work 

in the United Sttaes. U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. Soils, Bull. 21:1-48, 
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16 MUSCHLER, E. 

1912. A manual flora of Egypt. 1:497. 

17 Piper, C. V. 

1924. Forage plants and their culture. (Eevised edition) p. 461. 
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1907. Leguminous crops for green manuring. U. S. Dept. Agr. Farmers' 
Bull. 278:27. 
is Piper, C. V., and Pieters, A. J. 

1922. Green manuring. IT. S. Dept. Agr. Farmers' Bull. 1250:1-42. 

20 Prescott, J. A. 

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Dec. 17.) 

21 SORNAY, P. DE 

1916. Green manures and green manuring in the tropics, p. 289. 

22 Strahorn, A. T., et al. 

1922. Soil survey of the El Centro Area, California. Advance sheets. 
Field operations, U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. Soils, 1918, pp. 18-47. 

23 Willcocks, Sir W., and Craig, J. I. 

1918. Egyptian irrigation. Third ed., pp. 1-884, pis. 1-8, figs. 1-188. 



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